By the time September had come, the cabin had been only missing doors and windows. The family had moved out of the tents completely and were using the large sheets of fabric to stop the wind and rain from entering the cabin. Their furniture seemed too large for the small room: the beds took up more than half of the space, while the cabinets took up much of the rest of it. One of the cabinets was outside and the table was hauled out more often than left indoors. Still, Aunt Julietta had decorated the cabin with the remainder of their household finery. Lying in the bed that her father had given her for her wedding, Martha could imagine that they were still in their farmhouse. Aunt Julietta certainly treated the finery as though it were part of a grand house.
“Well, they took our homes from us, but they can’t take away our pride in our country and family,” she had reminded Martha one afternoon.
Despite months of being in good health, the last few weeks of summer had taken a toll on Martha. She had never suffered as much with her older children as she had with Annie. Never had she been laid up in bed longer than a week. When she had been carrying Jamie, others had forced her to rest – she had been much too spirited a young woman for that. With Davey, she had been busy with looking after Jamie. With Becca, she had two little boys and a farm to run. Luckily, she had Aunt Julietta and Susan to help her while she was confined to bed with pains.
Her husband had reluctantly left for the settlement at the beginning of September, promising to be home within two days. Jamie, Davey, Becca, and Aunt Julietta’s servant Campbell had left with him, leaving only the three women on the homestead. They got along fine until the two days had passed, at which point Martha and Susan became fretful and Aunt Julietta was the only one who could keep them from panicking.
“Sew, Martha!” she commanded. “Susan, you boil some water for tea. What else do you think we can do? I’m going to polish the candlesticks.” When Susan had gone out for water, the older woman had turned to Martha and continued softly. “Susan and I will take turns watching the river and we’ll keep the musket handy. I’m sure the boys and Becca will be back soon.”
“Maybe there’s trouble down at the settlement,” Martha had whispered, trying not to cry. “You know the boys – they’ll be in the thick of it if there is. Davey especially – between him and Charlie Timmins, it’s a wonder they’ve made it. I don’t worry so much about the boys, but Becca is a wee girl still. If the boys get into trouble, she’ll follow them right into it.”
“The Captain seems to think she’s old enough,” Aunt Julietta reasoned, calling Jim by the title that everyone but his family used. “I reckon he’ll keep an eye out for her.”
“He just wanted her out of my hair while I’m in bed, and she was desperate to go. Not as desperate as I would be, mind.”
“Caroline and Emma might be watching her, then.”
Martha burst into tears.
“I want to see Caroline and Emma,” she whimpered, sounding like Becca. “This is agony! I’m a prisoner in this bed! A prisoner in this bed in this piece of riverbank wilderness!”
Susan returned and hardly took notice of Martha as she poured water into the kettle over the fire. Martha often let her guard down in front of the younger woman, seeing her almost as a sister rather than a daughter. The way things were headed, it was almost certain that she would be married to one of Martha’s sons. She seemed to have her heart set on Davey, but Jamie would make for a more stable husband. The younger son seemed to be the one smitten with her, however, so perhaps all would be well. Susan and Davey would be good together.
Another day passed and still the family had not returned. Even Aunt Julietta was having trouble keeping her spirits up. Susan kept going back and forth from the cabin to the river, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Hunters’ boat. Martha had finally put down her sewing and taken up her Bible, but instead of comforting herself in Scripture, she traced the outlines of the names in the front cover. The Bible had been in her family since they had come from England one hundred and fifty years earlier. Her mother had given her the Bible upon her marriage, as she was the oldest daughter, and each of her children’s names was recorded. They had all been born in New Jersey – all in the same room of their farmhouse. Between Jamie and Davey, Martha’s mother’s death was listed, and she too had died in the same room, but her grave had been left behind. However, soon another little Hunter’s name would be listed in the Bible, and her birth would not be in New Jersey. At least, Martha consoled herself, it would be in the same bed – even if the bed was too big for the cabin.
It was a sunny afternoon when Annie was born. Her father and siblings had still not returned from the settlement, but her birth was enough to distract the women from dwelling on the rest of the family for a fourth day. Although it had been ten years since Becca had been born, Martha had little trouble with Annie. The baby was smaller than her other children had been. Nonetheless, Martha took the longest to recover after Annie’s birth – she was thirty-seven years old, she reminded herself as she remained in bed for several more days and winced as she walked for next few weeks.
“You’ve got another daughter,” Aunt Julietta announced as she and Susan cleaned her. Martha sighed in relief, having wondered why Susan yelped.
“Is she all right?”
“She’s got part of something wrapped around her. Looks almost like a wee blanket,” Susan replied, laughing. The child screamed. “But she’s a fine one to me.”
“Susan and I aren’t exactly midwives,” Aunt Julietta admitted. Even Martha laughed softly. “In a moment, we’ll give her to you. We’ve got to get her free first.”
Soon, Susan handed Annie to her mother. Upon seeing her, Annie stopped crying.
“Come here, baby girl,” Martha whispered confidently. “I’ve been waiting for you a long time! Aren’t you a tiny thing? Dainty, just like your mama.”
“I’ve only seen a couple babies born,” Aunt Julietta explained. “None of them were born wrapped up. This little one must have been all set for winter.”
“She had a coat…a Redcoat!” Susan began to giggle. “Mrs Hunter, you have a baby Redcoat!”
“We can’t baptise her that!” Aunt Julietta protested.
“No, we’ll call her Anne, for St. Anne’s,” Martha decided. “And Martha, after me – Anne Martha. But we can call her Annie Redcoat if the name suits her.”
“Will the Captain be pleased with her name?”
“We talked about it weeks ago. He’s got Jamie named after him. Aunt Julietta, will you get some water? We can say the prayers and do a quick christening here.”
She did not want to think that her little Annie would not make it to be baptised properly in the new church, but something compelled her to christen her immediately. Annie had to be connected to the family somehow, and the Church was the one way that she knew for sure to do so. Annie would never see her grandmother’s grave, but she would be part of the Church of England, as her grandmother, mother, and sister before her.
“Without the men?” Aunt Julietta asked, taken aback. “I understand not having a vicar, but…”
“You do the honour, Aunt Julietta,” Martha insisted. “You’re the eldest one here. You were always a fine upstanding woman of the Church.”
“I’ll get the water,” the older woman replied, hesitating slightly. “Anne must be baptised with water from the river.”
When she had left, Susan knelt beside Martha and Annie.
“You did a fine job, Mrs Hunter. Soon, please God, it will be my turn.”
“Would it please God indeed.” Martha paused. “You are not with child, Susan, are you?”
Susan shook her head.
“No, I’m not even married yet. But I hope to be married soon”
“Well, you know it will be a hard life here – not like back home. I thought that was hard.”
“Davey asked me to marry him before he left last week.”
“Did he, now?”
“I said I would marry him in the spring. Then we can apply for the land plot next to this one.”
“At least you won’t move far away. I never thought my Davey would marry first!”